In the short term, she said, damage to the Kulluk may prevent it from being ready for the 2013 open water season. Besides drilling in the Beaufort, the barge was supposed to be on hand for drilling a relief well if Shell’s drill vessel in the Chukchi Sea, the Noble Discoverer, experienced a wellhead blowout and was damaged, Epstein said.
Shell has maintained it has taken a heads-up approach to anticipating and reacting to problems.
Shell Alaska spokesman Smith said Wednesday the Kulluk had been towed more than 4,000 miles and had previously experienced similar storm conditions. Shell staged additional towing vessels along the route in case there were problems, he said.
‘‘We know how to work in regions like this,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Having said that, when flawless execution does not happen, you learn from it, and we will.’’